Friday, August 26, 2011

Quinoa Burrito Bowl

I try to pack a lunch for A and myself 3-4 times a week since going out for lunch everyday can be a drain on your wallet and an enemy to your waistline. There are some healthier options popping up in the Loop. One of them is Protein Bar. I liked that it is an independently owned business that strives to provide nutritious and flavorful food. I've tried their original protein bar-rito and chili bowl, but they just left a little something to be desired. They both needed a good dose of hot sauce to them. I don't think healthy food needs a lot of condiments.

I decided to make my own burrito bowl inspired by Chipotle and Protein Bar using quinoa, roasted veggies, black beans, avocados, tomatoes, cheese and salsa. It was so easy to assemble and economical. It's a very flexible combination that you can play around with based on what you like.

For the black beans, I used this recipe for Elly's black beans that I came across this past winter. This is the recipe for black beans that has been missing all of my life and perhaps your life too! It's simple to make using ingredients likely to be in your house right now, and it is so flavorful that you will wish you doubled the recipe. We have used them for veggie burritos, burrito bowls, rice, eggs, or just as a dip for tortilla chips.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Our final summer CSA

I can't believe how quickly 17 weeks went by! This was the last week in our summer CSA from Green Grocer. I loved the variety of the vegetables from week to week, and we learned to try some new things like scapes and kohlrabi. We received a lot of duplicate fruit from week to week, but that's okay! We loved the fruit this summer. I really couldn't have asked for better service from Cassie Green and her staff. They are so friendly and genuinely want your honest feedback. If there's a problem, they're ready to help resolve it. This only happened once when the strawberries went bad very quickly at one point during the summer due to all the heavy rains we received. For my first CSA experience, I was pleased enough to sign up for the fall/winter share.
Contents of our share:
Tomatoes-larger (Nichols Farm, Illinois)
Summer melons (Nichols)
Eggplant (Genesis Growers, IL)
Hot Peppers (Genesis Growers)
DOUBLE peaches (Seedling, Michigan) 

Monday, August 22, 2011

Peach cobbler

The peaches this year have been phenomenal - fragrant, sweet, and oh so juicy! I especially can't resist the donut peaches from Lehman Orchards. They are so sweet that they taste like candy! They also had red haven peaches, which is the most popular variety grown in Michigan. They work well for being cooked in recipes. I roasted them into a sauce for a goat cheese based ice cream. This past weekend, I made a cobbler for dessert. The topping crisped up after being baked over the juicy peachy filling. Served with a scoop of homemade vanilla ice cream, what could be a more perfect August dessert?

Peach Cobbler
adapted from Cooks' Illustrated


2 1/2 pounds peaches, ripe but firm (6 to 7 medium), peeled, halved and pitted
1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon fresh  lemon juice
pinch table salt

Biscuit Topping
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour 

3 tablespoons granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon table salt

5 tablespoons unsalted butter (cold), cut into 1/4-inch cubes
1/3 cup plain yogurt
1 teaspoon turbinado sugar (granulated sugar is okay too)


  1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. For the filling: Cut each half into 4 wedges. Gently toss peaches and sugar together in large bowl; let stand for 30 minutes, tossing every few minutes. Drain peaches in a mesh strainer set over large bowl. Whisk 1/4 cup of drained juice, cornstarch, lemon juice, and salt together in small bowl. Toss peach juice mixture with peach slices and transfer to 8-inch-square glass baking dish. Bake until peaches begin to bubble around edges, about 10 minutes.
  3. For the topping: While peaches are baking, in food processor, pulse flour, 3 tablespoons sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Scatter butter over and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal, about ten quick pulses. Transfer to medium bowl; add yogurt and mix with rubber spatula until cohesive dough is formed. (Don't overmix dough to avoid making biscuits tough.) Break dough into 6 evenly sized but roughly shaped mounds and set aside.
  4. To assemble and bake: After peaches have baked 10 minutes, remove peaches from oven and place dough mounds on top, spacing them at least 1/2 inch apart (they should not touch). Sprinkle each mound with portion of 1 teaspoon turbinado sugar. Bake until topping is golden brown and fruit is bubbling, 16 to 18 minutes. Cool on rack until warm, about 20 minutes; serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Scalloped tomatoes with croutons

One the perks of working in the Loop is the close proximity to many farmers markets during the week. I am in walking distance of the farmers market at Daley Plaza every Thursday. It's definitely grown since I first started shopping there five years ago. I have picked up beautiful flowers, like the peonies in my banner, juicy, sweet fruit and freshly picked vegetables. When I signed up for my CSA, I picked Tuesday so that I could get additional ingredients as needed to supplement my share. We had some leftover French baguette from the goat cheese ball in basil oil earlier this week, so with the roma tomatoes from our CSA, I decided to make scalloped tomatoes with croutons. I only had a pound of tomatoes on hand, so I still needed another 1 1/2 pounds. I purchased them from Klug Farms this week, and they were beautifully red, aromatic, and round.

I cubed about 3 cups of bread for this recipe. It gets toasted in some olive oil on the stove while I prepared a succulent tomato mixture seasoned with fresh garlic, sugar, salt, and pepper. After the bread gets toasted, the tomato mixture is added. Once that has cooked for about five minutes, a half cup of fresh basil is added. (Are you sick of my basil recipes yet? Thankfully, we don't have basil fatigue around here.) The mixture is then transferred to a baking dish. It is finally topped with pecorino cheese. I missed the detail about grating it finely, so the larger pieces of grated cheese created a crusty topping that contrasted the stew-like texture of the layer underneath. I served it with a poached egg, but we didn't find it necessary. This was a very addicting and flavorful dish on its own. The tomatoes were so sweet and fresh in this dish. Be sure to make this when tomatoes are in season to really enjoy their flavor. Here is the link to the recipe.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Zucchini olive oil loaf with lemon crunch glaze

With the abundance of zucchini at this time of year, I like having them on hand for both savory and sweet purposes. After making the vegetable tian and the zucchini chips, a sweet zucchini recipe was in order. When Lottie and Doof blogged about Gina DePalma's zucchini olive oil cake with lemon crunch glaze, I knew I had found it. I loved the idea of using a lemon glaze for zucchini cake. I've seen chocolate or cream cheese, but I love lemons! You'll always find them in my refrigerator. It's like butter, if I am running low on butter or lemons, I somehow feel incomplete.

The shredded zucchini and olive oil produced a very light and moist crumb. The lemon glaze is applied while the cake is still warm. It pools up in some puddles where the rise was a little uneven, but that's okay! After resting, the glaze develops a crunchiness on the pillowy cake and gives a bright punch that I loved. I used white whole wheat flour, and this is one of those recipes where the healthy substitution goes unnoticed because of the moistness and plentiful flavors.

I halved the recipe and filled three mini loaf pans. I received them at my bridal shower from my aunt. I love these pans! They release perfectly, bake evenly, and are great for sharing with other households and portion control.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Fifteenth CSA

We're winding down on our spring/summer CSA with Green Grocer, but I was so excited to learn that the fall one starts up immediately after. We've decided to renew. 

Below are the contents of our fifteenth CSA, which is such a colorful rainbow of goods!
Tomatoes-(Nichols Farm, Illinois)
Red Onions (Nichols)
Sweet Corn (Genesis Growers, IL)
Bell Peppers (Genesis Growers)
DOUBLE mixed plums (Seedling, Michigan) 

Monday, August 15, 2011

Eggplant Stacks

We received a couple of gorgeous eggplant with our CSA last week. I had a lot of leftover panko and pecorino from the goat cheese with basil oil, so it worked out perfectly to make these eggplant stacks for dinner. It's a healthier and lighter alternative to fried eggplant parmigiana, which makes it perfect for a healthy, meatless Monday.

Eggplant Parmigiana
Adapted from Mario Batali

2 eggplants
Marinara sauce
fresh basil leaves
¼ c panko bread crumbs, toasted
¼ c grated pecorino cheese
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Drizzle extra virgin olive oil  on a baking sheet.

Slice each eggplant into 6 pieces about ½ to ¾ inches thick. Season each slide with salt and pepper. Place on prepared baking sheet. Bake the eggplant at 450 degrees F until the slices begin turning deep brown on top, about 20-25 minutes. Remove the eggplants from the oven. 

Lower oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Place the 4 largest eggplant slice evenly spaced apart in a new baking dish. Over each slice, spread tomato sauce, sprinkle with basil and mozzarella cheese. Top with another eggplant slice and repeat with tomato sauce, basil, and mozzarella. Sprinkle the toasted bread crumbs over the top of the eggplant dish, and bake uncovered until the cheese is melts and the tops turn light brown, about 20 minutes. Serve immediately.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Goat cheese with basil oil

Our balcony has officially become a basil jungle. I have been trying to find recipes to use up the basil aside from making pesto. I remember pinning this recipe as soon as it was posted, so with everything on hand, I just needed to get a baguette. After checking out the Dose Market yesterday, I hopped on over to Fox & Obel. I could spend hours and too much money here. Luckily, for my wallet and waistline, I managed to leave with just a baguette!

The prep for this appetizer was really quick and easy. I ended up with more grated pecorino and panko break crumbs than it really needed. I think you could easily get away with just using 1-2 tablespoons of each. I really loved the verdant basil oil and wish I had doubled this part of the recipe because it really balanced the creamy, richness of the cheese. Both changes are reflected in the recipe below. This would be a nice appetizer for a small dinner party.

Pecorino crusted goat cheese with basil oil
Adapted from Annie's Eats

For the goat cheese:
2 tbsp Pecorino or Parmesan cheese, finely grated
2 tbsp panko
Freshly ground pepper
4 oz. semi-firm plain goat cheese
1 clove garlic
¼ tsp. coarse salt, plus more to taste

For the basil oil:
½ cup fresh basil leaves
1 clove garlic
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil

Place the grated Pecorino and panko in the bowl of a food processor.  Pulse until finely ground into an even, fine texture.   Season with freshly ground pepper to taste.  Transfer to a shallow plate or bowl.  

Place the goat cheese in a small bowl.  Finely mince the garlic.  Sprinkle the salt over the minced garlic and smash the mixture together with a fork or the side of a chef’s knife until it forms a paste.  Add the garlic paste to the bowl with the goat cheese and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Stir the mixture together until smooth and well blended.  Form the goat cheese mixture into a round ball.  Roll the ball in the Pecorino-panko mixture until well coated.  Cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate.
To make the basil oil, bring a small saucepan of water to a boil.  Add the basil leaves to the pot and boil for 30 seconds.  Drain and rinse immediately with cold water.  Blot the basil leaves with a towel to remove all of the excess water.  Add the basil leaves and the garlic to the bowl of the food processor.  Pulse until finely minced.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl.  With the food processor running, add the oil through the feed tube in a steady stream.  Continue processing until the mixture is well blended and the oil takes on a green hue.  Strain the oil mixture through a fine mesh sieve onto a serving plate.  Place the ball of goat cheese in the center of the basil oil.  Garnish with additional fresh basil if desired.  Serve with baguette slices.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Fifteenth Spring/Summer CSA

I was feeling lazy, so I didn't get a picture of our share. The contents of our Green Grocer share included:

Tomatoes (Nichols Farm, Illinois)
Eggplant (Nichols)
Zucchini (Genesis Growers, IL)
Cantaloupe (Genesis Growers)
DOUBLE mixed plums (Seedling, Michigan)

Monday, August 8, 2011

Phoebe's Cupcakes

Cupcakes have been all the rage for the last few years. They are adorable to look at and easier to portion amongst a group, but for taste and balance, I much prefer a multiple layer cake. I like getting a little bit of cake and frosting or filling with each bite. With a cupcake, there's too much cake on the bottom and too much frosting on top. Rather than baking a whole cake to satisfy my fleeting cake craving, it's pretty easy to find a cupcake bakery these days.  

Earlier this year, there was a $5 Groupon to spend $10 at Phoebe's Cupcakes. I am fully guilty of taking advantage of a Groupon deal here and there. It gives me an excuse to try something on my list sooner rather than later, and at a discounted price. Who doesn't like to save a few dollars? Leave it to me to wait until the day it expires to get over there! Lucky for me, there wasn't a huge line or low inventory.

After browsing through their online menu of regular flavors and weekly flavors, I had hoped to get 2 breakfast cupcakes, a strawberry lemonade, and a salted caramel. They didn't have a strawberry lemonade for me to purchase, so I picked up a raspberry latte instead. The breakfast cupcake is a buttermilk cake soaked with maple syrup, maple butter frosting and topped with crispy bacon and a final drizzle of more maple syrup. The buttermilk cake reminded me of a light pound cake texture -  tight crumb, buttery, and light without being too crumbly. The frosting was also very light, which I liked. Even though the maple syrup was incorporated into the cupcake three different times, it was never overwhelming. You could tell that it was applied with a judicious hand. I also liked that Phoebe's Cupcakes are a manageable size and not overly sweet. I would recommend them if you like a light frosting and a delicate cupcake base.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Zucchini "chips"

Looking for a side to accompany portobello burgers, I remembered I still had a couple of zucchinis leftover from the vegetable tian. I decided to make zucchini "chips." As much as I bake, I have a major weakness for french fries and potato chips. I had hoped that zucchini "chips" might be a healthier alternative. The result was a nice change of pace for preparing zucchini. The breaded coating was well seasoned and light but provided a nice crisp coating to the baked zucchini. I made a basil yogurt sauce for dipping, which was creamy and cool. The leftover sauce will be great with raw veggies, crackers or pitas.

Baked Zucchini "Chips"
Inspired by Cooking Light

2 zucchini, sliced 1/4" wide

Breaded coating:
1 c panko bread crumbs
1/4 c grated pecorino

1 garlic clove, minced or pressed
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp thyme
salt and pepper

1. Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Spray a baking sheet with olive oil.
2. Combine the ingredients for the breaded coating in a bowl.
3. Pour 1/3 cup milk in a bowl, submerge the zucchini in the milk.
4. Dredge the zucchini slice in the breaded coating.
5. Place coated zucchini slice on the baking sheet. Repeat until zucchini slices or breaded coating run out. 
6. Spray the zucchini with olive oil spray. Bake for 30 minutes.

Basil Yogurt Sauce  
adapted from Melissa D'arabian

1/2 c Greek Yogurt
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp mayonnaise
3 tbsp fresh basil, chopped
1 scallion, chopped

1 garlic clove, minced
salt and pepper

Process ingredients in a mini food processor until fully blended.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Ham Loretta

I still remember when my friend, Susan, took me to Sarkis back in college. It was the end of the school year, and maybe even the end of senior year more specifically. There were four of us on that sunny afternoon. We all ordered the ham loretta (one veg loretta), hash browns and a pop for $5 flat. The ham loretta was so simple, yet so good. I craved it when I would be in the area. I took A once, and he was pretty disgusted by the unbused dirty plates that were piled up around us at all the tables and the counter. However, the ham loretta was good enough for me to overlook the uncleanliness.

Last week, I began to crave a ham loretta again as I learned that my SIL's boyfriend used to work at Sarkis back in the day. She told me they used Gonnella rolls and Lawry's seasoning salt. When we went grocery shopping this week, I set out to pick up the ingredients.

To assemble a ham loretta, split open a Gonnella roll and place the roll cut side down in your griddle or cast iron skillet. Toast it to your liking and flip over to toast the outside of the roll and top half of the cut side with cheese. I used mozzarella since that's what we had on hand. Sarkis uses "White Cheese," so intrepret that as you please. Let the cheese melt on the bread while you are toasting the outside.

Meanwhile, dice some white or red onions, green peppers and tomatoes. Once the cheese has melted, spread mayonnaise on the side opposite of the melted cheese. Sprinkle with Lawry's seasoning salt, top with your diced veggies, and deli ham. It seems like a very simple cast of ingredients, but they marry together so well. Enjoy!

Garbage Plate

To conclude our trip to Buffalo, we drove up to Rochester on Sunday night to see the Bills' practice session. Neither of us had ever attended a practice session for a professional sports team. The Bills use St. John's Fisher University's football field. It was a very nice facility that provided an intimate setting for their fans. There were a lot of different groups spread out all over the field so it was hard to figure out where to concentrate your attention. Toward the latter half of practice, the team scrimmaged. 

Afterwards, we raced over to Nick Tahou's for their $5 garbage plate special, Sunday-Thursday, 6pm-10pm. A dinner sized plate is filled with home fries on one half and macaroni salad on the other half. We opted to get two cheeseburger patties, and then it is topped with the works: mustard, onions, hot sauce, and a greasy beef gravy/sauce. I can't imagine eating this all by myself. In spite of all the crazy ingredients listed, we still used additional hot sauce, ketchup and mustard. The home fries were more like smaller cuts of steak fries. As skeptical as we were, the macaroni salad was a surprisingly good contrast to all the toppings. The white bread on the side was unnecessary and not very good. The garbage plate is one of those novelties that you just have to check out for yourself!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Fourteenth Summer CSA

 I'm sad to see that we are down to the last 3 shares of our summer CSA. This week, our share contained:
Red Kale (Nichols Farm, Illinois)
Bell Peppers (Nichols)
Ruby Streaks Baby Mustard Greens (Genesis Growers, IL)
Basil (Genesis Growers)
Blueberries (Seedling, Michigan)
Apricots (Seedling)

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Buffalo, NY Summer Recap

My husband, A, grew up in Buffalo, NY. For the second year now, we make it back twice a year: in the summer and during the holidays. A has a long list of favorites, but there are only so many meals to eat out during our stay. A's favorite pizza in Buffalo has quickly become one of my favorites as well: Mr. Pizza. The sauce and the dough are ever so slightly sweet, and the pepperoni are smaller than what most people are accustomed to having. The pepperoni is smaller in diameter and sliced thicker. After being baked in a hot oven, the pepperoni transforms into a crispy, zesty, and meaty disc. We always get Mr. Pizza at least once when visiting.

Another Buffalo classic is the Beef on Weck from Charlie the Butcher. What is Beef on Weck? A kaiser like roll is generously topped with kosher salt and caraway seeds. It is sliced in half, smeared with prepared horseradish and filled with slow-roasted rare roast beef. The beef is tender and juicy enough to make the soft kimmelweck roll slightly damp. The salted weck and the horseradish are the perfect compliments that really lifts the beef to another dimension above your average roast beef.

Do you have favorite spots that you like to hit up when you return to your hometown?